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20 April 2014
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The Voices Recordings
Interviewee Tony Collins

Lives: Leeds, West Yorkshire

Time lived in area: All my life

Occupation: Sports historian

Find out more about the group

Listen to
Football, rugby or rugger? Tony talks about how the different terms for rugby league and how confusing it can be.

Language of interview: English

Duration: 01:23 (mins/secs)



About the interview

The participants were asked to describe how they spoke in their own words.

How do you describe your accent: "Softened' Hull accent."

Have there been other influences on the way you speak: "Age 0-18 lived in Hull; age 18-26 lived in Birmingham; age 26-43 lived in Leeds."

Do you have skills in languages other than English?: Yes

Other languages: Russian, French

About this interview
TONY COLLINS: I mean the other thing that I, I found amazing when I went there a couple of years ago, in Australia, is the fact that rugby league, well certainly in New South Wales and s- and Queensland, rugby league is football, so if you talk about rugby, they think you're talking about rugby union. TREVOR: Um, yeah, there now that is confusing. TONY COLLINS: Yeah, which is really confusing so you have to sort of do a mental t- double thing to - when you're talking to people about what the game is. TREVOR: But, but, quite often in our house, especially growing up, you wouldn't talk about rugby - we would say, "Are we off to the football today?" TONY COLLINS: Yeah. TREVOR: And we'd know we meant rugby. You wouldn't say, "Are you off to the rugby?" We'd have to say, "Are you off to the football?" And like if somebody's having a- or if a team's having a good game we still say they're playing some great football. TONY MARCHANT: Some good football, yeah. TONY COLLINS: Yeah, and he's a good footballer, yeah. TONY MARCHANT: We've always said that but we've never called it football. It's like - TREVOR: Oh, we used to call it football. Or like me gran, you know - TONY MARCHANT: Rugger - "Are we off to play rugby?" and, you know, even though I know rugger it's like a, a thing towards rugby union. TONY COLLINS: Yeah, rugby union, innit more? TONY MARCHANT: But when we were kids that's, oh, "Let's go and have a game of rugger." TONY COLLINS: Really? That's - TONY MARCHANT: Yeah. TONY COLLINS: That's interesting. TONY MARCHANT: Yeah. TONY COLLINS: Cos I would have, I would have thought that, that anybody, we say rugger it's obviously rugby union but, yeah, I mean my granny used to call rugby league, football. TONY MARCHANT: Yeah. TREVOR: I've always thought that when - TONY MARCHANT: No, never, never call it football. TONY COLLINS: Oh, right. TREVOR: I've always just assumed that went back to sort of the days of like the er, right back at the beginning. TONY COLLINS: Yeah, well it's like Hull Football Club. TREVOR: Yeah. TONY COLLINS: Because that's what football was.
More about the speech in this clip

Jonnie Robinson, Curator, English accents and dialects, British Library Sound Archive, writes

An interesting aspect of language is the way different words are used to refer to the same thing in different cultures or dialects or indeed how the same word means something different in other communities. The word football originally referred to a game played according to diverse local rules the length and breadth of the UK roughly since the 1300s and indeed in various forms across the whole world. By the 1800s various versions of the game still existed, most notably differing in the approach to players handling the ball during play. In the late 1800s a number of student bodies in England, foremost among them the leading public schools, attempted to codify different versions of the sport, leading to the formation in 1863 of the Football Association and in 1871 of the Rugby Football Union. The rugby playing world was subsequently further divided by the creation of the Northern Rugby Football Union (later The Rugby Football League) in 1895 after a dispute over broken time payments. Since then other versions have emerged, including Aussie Rules Football in Australia, American Football in the USA and, of course, Gaelic Football has long been played in Ireland.

All of this has meant that different parts of the English-speaking world interpret the word football according to their own tradition. Certainly in Rugby League towns football continues to be used to refer to Rugby League, as it does in Australia, particularly in the expression he's a good footballer, as these speakers confirm. Indeed one of the top Rugby League clubs is officially known as Hull FC (in contrast to the football club Hull City FC) as acknowledged here. Elsewhere in the UK football could only possibly refer to the eleven-man game. Interestingly, the word rugger, particularly if pronounced in a stereotypically 'plummy' accent along the lines of wuggah immediately conjures up images of public school sport and is thus associated, in England at least, with Rugby Union. The word soccer, on the other hand, these days tends to be considered an Americanism, but is in fact, like rugger, originally a public school slang term used to differentiate the two codes: rugger is a nickname for rugby union and soccer a nickname for association football. The fact that it's now associated with American or Australian usage - the Australian national football team is often called the Socceroos, a pun on the nickname of the national Rugby League team, the Kangaroos - is simply because it's been used in those countries to differentiate it from their own national codes.


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